Luce Unplugged: Five Questions for Governess

Photo of Governess by Damian Achilles

On Friday, March 23rd, the Luce Foundation Center hosts another installment of the Luce Unplugged Community Showcase from 6-8 p.m. Presented with Washington City Paper, the free show features performances by local artists with free spirit tastings provided by the women-owned distillery Republic Restoratives. Jessica McFadden, the Luce Foundation Center's  Program Assistant, reached out to this season’s Showcase performers, Governess and Antonia, to gain some insights to their creative processes. First up in this two-part blog post is D.C. punk rock mom trio, Governess.

EyeLevel: What does the name Governess mean to you? What’s your inspiration behind it?

Governess: The main inspiration was that picking a name is really awful! Nothing seems right when you are trying to figure it out. At one point we actually had a whiteboard covered in words with arrows and notes all over it… insane flowchart meets football playbook. Governess was ironic in that we all have children, and it comes from old French meaning "female ruler" but it also makes you think of women in the Bronte-era books who were hired to manage the children - the severe ladies in the long dresses with the lacy white collars. We’re all responsible for our households and raising children and the reason we began making music together was to give voice to the struggles and issues that arise from that role. I can’t think of a better name for us.

What’s your creative process like when making music?

Collaborative. Slow. Deliberate. Thoughtful. We usually come up with the music first, and we have a repository of ideas and words that we go to for the lyrics unless someone has an idea for lyrics otherwise. We are all very detail-oriented and exacting people with very strong opinions. We generally figure that if it’s something we can all agree on then it’s probably ok, given our standards of expectation for ourselves.

To build off of that last question, what inspires you to create? Are there any artists/ musicians that have had an impact on your creative process?

I live and die by Oulipo and Fluxus. I love words and I’m interested in the use of limitation or chance to aid creation, as well as the idea that art is everything. And even though I don’t read it as much as I should, I love good poetry. Musically I’m all over the place, although I am an 80’s goth deep down. Over the last few years I’ve really started to appreciate Liars, because who doesn’t love a band who took to the woods to make a concept album about witches that everyone then hated?

In a 2016 interview with Washington City Paper, you describe your most recent music as, “a reflection on the frustrations associated with transitioning to adulthood and coming to terms with the patriarchal world we live in.” What reflections would you make now, in 2018?

 Well, it seems to be more patriarchal and sucky now, doesn’t it? In 2016 we had just finished writing our first batch of songs. We had all just transitioned into motherhood, and had all experienced a variety of losses personally, professionally as well as mentally and emotionally. We were tired, raw, frazzled, trying to stay above water. Coming together to write those songs was a life-boat at that time. Now that our children are older and engaging with the world in different ways, our lens has shifted to a broader, more analytical place. While the political and economic state of the world continues to deteriorate, in addition to dealing with our own personal place within that, we are part of communities responsible for raising the next generation of children who will inherit this mess. Trust me, eight year olds are not short on the hard-hitting existential questions.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?

We just finished recording our second album, Enough, which is due out in late spring on Sister Polygon Records. We wrote the album in 2017 and we definitely weren’t writing about meadows and happiness. The songs are darker, but also have an undercurrent of hope. We’re pretty excited about it.

Want to listen to music by these performers? Check out Governess on Bandcamp and stream Antonia on Soundcloud. Luce Unplugged is a free, monthly concert series held in the Luce Foundation Center for American Art. The series is organized in partnership with DC Music Download, and Washington City Paper. Be sure to check out upcoming performances and don't miss our Spring Community Showcase this Friday, March 23rd. Antonia to open at 6 p.m. followed by Governess at 7 p.m.